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Students who complete an online master’s in human services degree program can further their knowledge of the services, policies, and research that goes into improving human lives. Those with this degree may be able to gain a senior-level position as a social or community service manager, where they can expect to earn an average pay of $77,030 per year.

Students must typically complete 30 credits to earn this degree, and most full-time students can complete all of the required coursework in two years (or even just one year via an accelerated program). According to U.S. News & World Report, this degree usually costs between $13,000 to $25,000 in total tuition.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Human Services Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS). Some online master’s in human services degrees are more generalized, but others may require students to select a particular area of study. These concentrations typically include organizational leadership, student affairs, counseling, and nonprofit management. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match these career goals.

Research schools and programs

When researching different online master’s in human services programs, students need to narrow the extensive list of schools down to a few of the most promising ones.

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Students can also narrow things down by cost, as attending schools outside their budget can leave students stuck with large amounts of debt. Finally, consider eliminating prospective schools that don’t offer the flexible schedule you may need as a remote learner.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. While many online master’s in human services programs no longer require GRE scores as part of the application, some programs still have this requirement. Students who need to take the GRE for the first time should pay careful attention to application deadlines: it can take up to three months to study for the exam and up to 15 days to receive results, so it’s important to schedule any necessary tests well ahead of application deadlines.

It’s equally important to review the application for any other additional requirements, which may include transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

With the list of online master’s in human services programs narrowed down, students must determine which one(s) they will apply to.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

The first step in getting help paying for a degree is for students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. Completing this form will determine the student’s eligibility for federal grants and loans, and a completed FAFSA may be a requirement for specific scholarships. While scholarships and grants are rarer for graduate students than undergraduate students, it may be worth looking into what is available. To do so, contact the financial aid office of prospective schools to ask about what types of aid may be available through the school or the state. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Best Online Master's in Human Services Degree Programs

University of Illinois Springfield

CSUN Tseng College

University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Liberty University

University of Oklahoma

Bellevue University

Regent University

CSP Global

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Arizona State University

Wilmington University

NSU Florida College of Education & School of Criminal Justice

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Saint Leo University

Kansas State University

Bryan College

University of Redlands

Minot State University

Southeastern University

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies

East Tennessee State University

Houston Christian University

St. Joseph's University, New York

University of Northwestern at St. Paul

Warner Pacific University

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Webster University

Youngstown State University

Springfield College

Western Carolina University

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Mercer University

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How We Rank Schools

We concentrated on master’s-level programs in human services for this list. For this major, students typically earn either a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA) degree.

Once we compiled our list of programs, we reviewed them based on cost, outcomes, reputation, faculty, and flexibility. Then, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Human Services Program?

Students in an online master’s in human services program can expect a curriculum that focuses on social work, counseling, substance abuse intervention, family support services, and public health initiatives.

The curriculum’s sheer diversity is because the class is designed to help students learn how to become community leaders who help those around them lead happier, healthier, and more productive lives. Students must learn several different skills that are all useful in their own right but that collectively help prepare students for a unique leadership role in their area.

Most of these graduate programs are comprised of 30 credit hours. A full-time student typically needs two years to complete everything. However, students can graduate quicker by taking accelerated programs or increasing their course load. Typically, these programs are fully remote and do not require students to spend time on campus.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in human services degree program

  • Law and Practice in Human Services. This course teaches students how the law can facilitate and limit the implementation of human services in a given area. Accordingly, students will learn about civil and criminal court matters and how they impact human services directly and indirectly over time.
  • Survey of Human Services. Students review the historical foundation of human services and examine how different forces (including social and political influences) may affect the design and implementation of much-needed services.
  • Human Services Helping Skills. This course focuses on how to create a better local community. The actual coursework primarily consists of recognizing major problems in individuals and areas and developing creative solutions to those problems.
  • Human Behavior & Human Systems. In this class, students learn about psychology, neurology, physiology, and more to help them better understand the struggles of diverse individuals and learn how to plan interventions as needed.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Human Services?

Career outlook

Graduates of an online master’s in human services degree program are able to take their knowledge and skills and apply them to a variety of career paths. Students may choose to work in the mental health field directly with clients or work in administrative positions involving community or outreach services.

Below are just a few of the career paths available:

  • Social or community service manager — Oversee operations and secure funding for programs that support public well-being.
    • Median annual salary: $77,030
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 9%
    • New job openings projected: 16,000 annually
  • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor — Evaluate the mental and physical health of clients, recommend treatment plans, and monitor progress.
    • Median annual salary: $53,710
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 18%
    • New job openings projected: 42,000 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, behavioral, and financial issues.
    • Median annual salary: $58,380
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually

Online Master’s in Human Services Degree Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in human services degree program?

To apply to an online master’s in human services program, students need only visit the university website. There, they can determine whether it’s possible to fill out the application directly on the site or if the site redirects to an application portal. While reviewing the application, students should always double-check what additional paperwork may be required when they apply, including GRE scores, letters of recommendation, application essays, or cover letters.

If any questions remain, students should contact the school’s admissions counselors. These counselors can answer such questions and verify that the application is not missing any necessary paperwork.

How much does an online master’s in human services degree program cost?

According to U.S. News & World Report, most students will pay between $13,000 to $25,000 in total tuition for an online master’s in human services. The primary reason for this range is that some schools are much more expensive than others. Private schools tend to charge more than public schools, though public schools often have much higher tuition rates for out-of-state students than in-state students.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in human services degree?

An online master’s in human services program typically runs for 30 credit hours, so full-time students can usually complete all the coursework within two years.

Certain schools offer accelerated programs that allow full-time students to finish in as little as one year. On the other hand, part-time students may need three years or more to earn their degree.

Is an online master’s in human services worth it?

An online master’s in human services degree program gives you a diverse framework to help you understand how people act and relate to others and how communities serve a larger role in ensuring the health of their citizens. Students learn skills that can help them take on leadership and management roles or prepare them to go on and earn doctoral degrees.

A graduate degree in human services may include opportunities, such as practicums, research projects, and internships, that let you get real-world experience in your field. Online programs usually have both synchronous and asynchronous coursework, so you still get the benefit of collaborating with peers and professors.

Completing an online degree program shows potential employers that you have the organization and self-motivation skills to succeed in a fast-paced job environment. It also prepares you for remote positions, such as those in telecounseling.

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